The economic support measures being rolled out during the current crisis could save around 155,000 jobs over this year and the next, cushioning the rise in the resident unemployment rate by about 1.7 percentage points this year, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
More than half of the jobs saved are due to the Jobs Support Scheme alone, he said, adding that there will still be job losses.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore has also estimated that the four combined Budgets will prevent the economy from contracting by a further 5.6 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product this year, and 4.8 per cent next year, he added.
Addressing Parliament ahead of a third Supplementary Supply Bill, Mr Heng said Singapore’s plan is not simply to get through the pandemic. The objective at this “critical juncture” is to gain ground that will pave the way for the country’s next lap of economic growth over the next five to 10 years, he said.
Laying out the Government’s plans for growth, Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, added: “Let me stress that everything this Government does to protect, reopen and grow our economy – we do, not for the economy’s sake, but for our people.
“We strive to secure a way for Singapore to continue to make a good living, so that Singaporeans can have a good life. This is our guiding principle.”
In August, Mr Heng announced that another $8 billion would be spent to save jobs, create new ones and seize new growth opportunities.
The third Supplementary Supply Bill, which provides for this, will go through the usual parliamentary proceedings. It is scheduled to be debated by MPs next week, and has to be assented to by the President.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Heng outlined Singapore’s progress in its fight against Covid-19. The multi-ministerial task force handling the crisis will release more details on the third and final stage of the country’s phased reopening in the coming weeks, he said.
He also pledged to continue supporting households and added that support for businesses and workers will not taper off too sharply, even as Singapore shifts its approach to helping save jobs and firms.
On top of this, several support schemes will be further enhanced to help firms in hard-hit sectors, as well as those which are growing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Heng also laid out Singapore’s refreshed, longer-term economic strategy which builds on the existing industry transformation maps to restructure various sectors.
First, Singapore will build up its role at the heart of Asia’s growth, while forging connectivity with other key markets, Mr Heng said.
It also includes rebuilding physical connectivity in travel and trade, and strengthening digitalisation.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung will share more details today in his ministerial statement on Singapore’s plans to revive its air hub and restore connectivity.
Second, the country will redouble its efforts to foster inclusive growth. Noting that Covid-19 has revealed vulnerabilities in Singapore’s labour market, Mr Heng said it is necessary to better understand its structure, and upgrade jobs and skills across all segments.
But it will still be necessary to bring in global talent to complement local talent, even as Singapore carefully updates its foreign workforce policies, he added.
“By building on complementary strengths, we can build cutting-edge capabilities in our workforce and our firms, and plug into global networks. This will ultimately benefit all Singaporean workers.”
Last, it will invest in economic resilience and sustainability as a source of competitive advantage. This includes producing essential supplies locally, and ramping up deployment of renewable energy.
Mr Heng reiterated that there are no plans to draw on past reserves for this latest support package, beyond what was approved earlier.
To fund its Covid-19 response, the Government had obtained President Halimah Yacob’s approval twice this year to draw up to $52 billion from past reserves.
“We have dedicated close to $100 billion to support our people and businesses through this difficult period. As we do so, we must be careful not to spend in a way that squanders what generations before us have painstakingly built up,” Mr Heng said.
“Our guiding principle is prudence, not austerity. We will continue to invest decisively in our national priorities, with a deep commitment to leave behind a better future for our children.”
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